The death of Osama bin Laden in a million-dollar mansion about 35 miles outside the Pakistani capital and not in a secret mountain hide-out raised questions Monday about Pakistani complicity in concealing the al Qaeda leader.
Hamid Gul, a former chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, said that it “is a bit amazing” to believe that authorities did not know bin Laden was in Abbottabad.
Aside from the military, “there is the local police, the Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence, the ISI, they all had a presence there,” he added.
Members of Congress and analysts said the pressure is now on Pakistan to reveal when it first knew about the al Qaeda leader’s whereabouts.
Sen. Joseph I. Leiberman, Connecticut independent, said the “burden of proof” is on the Pakistanis to convince us that they really did not know” where bin Laden was hiding.
Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican, accused Pakistan of playing a “double game.”
“It’s very difficult for me to understand how this huge compound could be built in a city just an hour north of the capital of Pakistan, in a city that contained military installations, including the Pakistani military academy, and that it did not arouse tremendous suspicion, especially since there were no Internet or telephone connections and the waste was incinerated and there was barbed wire all around the top of the compound,” she said.
Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership have insisted for years that bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, were not in Pakistan or that they are hiding in the mountainous tribal belt along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Instead, bin Laden was found living comfortably on a property U.S. officials said was worth $1 million and eight times the size of other homes in the city.
“I think it is inconceivable that bin Laden didn’t have a support system in the country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time,” John Brennan, President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, told reporters.
He declined to speculate on the nature of this assistance, but said U.S. officials are “closely talking to the Pakistanis right now.”
Bin Laden was killed on Sunday after he was tracked to a compound in the garrison city of Abbottabad, located close to the elite Pakistani Military Academy at Kakul town. The academy is Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point.
Last week, Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, told graduating cadets at the academy that the “back of terrorism” in Pakistan had been broken.
Previously, al Qaeda No. 3, Abu Faraj Al-Libbi and Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed were both captured in residential areas in Pakistan.
“What this shows is that Pakistan has been complicit with Osama bin Laden, that they have sheltered him,” Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, said in a call with reporters on Monday.